Racial Discrimination in Raisin in the Sun
Raisin in the Sun is an autobiographical play center along with an African American family that aspires to passage beyond the segregation happening in the 1950s in Chicago, America. The family of five children living in a poor area dreams of moving towards the middle class in Chicago by supporting their dreams. The play, therefore, revolves around Walter Younger, who struggles to own a business and get money to achieve his goals. He crosses financial bridges, but when he is about to move into an all-white neighborhood, he is segregated and even offered a bribe not to move there. The Younger’s family ultimately respond to the bribe and segregation with defiance. Racial discrimination was a prevalent theme within the setting of the 1950s when there was subtle segregation of blacks from all walks of life. The play demonstrates that in the presence of racial discrimination, the best way to deal with it is to stand up to it rather than passing it unchecked.
Lauraine Hansberry Autobiography
Lorraine Hansberry was born in a well-educated black home in Chicago in 1930. She was the youngest in their family of four children, and her parents were actively involved in fighting against racial discrimination. The ear experienced a lot of segregation in living areas and economic lines. The city that Loraine lived in was an example of a place where the people lived in black and white neighborhoods (M’Baye 177). Growing up, Lorraine’s family was the first one to move into a white neighborhood where they faced threats of legal action and violence. Hansberry’s father defended the family and successfully brought their case up to the Supreme Court. Lorraine felt the urge to write about her experiences, and writing A Raising in the Sun was one of the first plays portraying black themes, characters, and conflict in a natural manner (M’Baye 171. It went on to win the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award, bringing attention to the American Civil Rights Movement.
The Great Migration
The great migration was a massive movement of African Americans from the rural parts of Southern USA to the urban areas in the North and the West. Originally, the Africans were in the southern farms where they live as slaves, but after the emancipation, they were released from the bondage and were free. The main reasons that pushed the blacks to migrate were the poor economic conditions in the south caused by crop damage because of boll weevils, and the Jim Crow laws that had the Africans segregated in the regions. They moved to the big cities because of the promise of good wages and the good living conditions envisioned for them in major towns such as Chicago, New York, Michigan, Detroit, Ohio, and Cleveland. The migration did not end the discrimination as the African Americans were segregated into ghettoes within the major cities.
Racism and views on blackness
During the mid-20th century, there were still ideas that the African Americans were people of a lower lifestyle and therefore restricted to low jobs, low pay, and low living conditions. In housing, the black people were restricted to black regions, which mainly consisted of ghettos and crime-ridden places (Gordon 123). Within the play, for example, the Younger family, while living in South Chicago, lived in a cramped apartment where the son did not have a bedroom, they did not have a bathroom and shared it with the neighbors, and privacy was not assured (Hansberry 27-28). The socioeconomic status was low, and the blacks were limited to low jobs, 64% of black women and 34% of black men were servants or maids. In the play, we also see that Walter drove people, and Lena and Ruth are servants. The payments from the jobs were also poor for the blacks. Ruth, for example, did not receive enough pay and showed frustration when speaking to her husband about the check coming in (Hansberry 29). Even Travis was expecting the check as much as the mom because he needed fifty cents for school (Hansberry 31). When Beneatha figure out how much medical school would cost, and they know it is going to be a burden for the family (Hansberry 40). The situations show the extent of poverty within the black homes. It comes to show how segregation caused African American homes to struggle in their opportunities for jobs, housing, and resources.
The other idea that was present in the USA within the period was the restriction and seclusion slogans carried forward by the Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow laws had been the main ideas that led to the segregation of the blacks into their schools, living areas, and amenities. While the law was abolished and nonfunctioning in the Northern cities, the same restrictive ideas were carried forth up to the mid-20th century (Gordon 122). The idea is witnessed in the play when the Youngers try to move into the White neighborhood. Karl Lindner, who was the representative of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association within the White neighborhood, was also tasked with orienting new neighbors (Hansberry 115). The neighborhood and Lindner are opposed to the idea of a Negro family moving into their locality. He uses the argument that Negro families would be happier if they lived with their people, to try and convince Ruth, Beneatha, and Walter (Hansberry 118). He pulled the race card on the family and even went ahead to bribe them not to move into the place (Hansberry 119). The younger family was wise enough to carry on with their dream of living within a better neighborhood and rejecting the money offered to them. It is clear from Lindner’s arguments that the whites still wanted the black people secluded into their areas and not mix with them despite the poor living conditions in the black localities.
Prejudice for African Americans is also present in this ear and leads to racism. When Lindner received an angry reaction from the Younger family, he asks them if “they thought they could just move into a neighborhood where they are not wanted and could get people worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they had worked for was threatened” (Hansberry 119). There was prejudice on the blacks as they feared that they would destroy their way of living through crime and violence. Blacks in this period were associated with these traits, and Lindner progressed the prejudice. When Walter talks about his dream of a business negotiation with Willy, he comments on the prejudiced state of blacks. He claimed that they were stuck in a community that only knew how to moan, pray, and make babies (Hansberry 89). It showed that even the blacks themselves had believed their prejudiced statements, and it was making them doubt their capabilities.
Writing a Raisin in the Sun and Selection of
A Raisin in the Sun was a good choice for Hansberry because it represented her family’s real-life struggle to reach their dream. It was, therefore, an expression of her experiences. The Younger family was a realistic depiction of a black family during the period and would, therefore, appeal to the audience of the time. The story of injustice in achieving the American dream also tied to the civil rights movement that was ongoing in the country. The African Americans were tired of their oppression. The period was when the country was growing immensely after the wars, and everyone was chasing the American dream. The blacks were the only ones left behind as they were expected to be complacent and satisfied with their domestic structures. Creating such a book at this particular time would appeal to the audience of the movement.
The main characters chosen within the play represent the various dreams the African Americans had and how they were determined to achieve them. Every member of the family and hero had their dream (M’Baye 174). Walter had the dream of setting up his business and making millions like the other whites who were progressing within the commercial field. He, therefore, is the hero to represent this type of dream. Beneatha was chasing the dream of becoming a doctor. Many of the blacks did not have professional qualifications and even the money to pay for college. Beneatha was, therefore, the hero for education (M’Baye 174). Asagai was an immigrant from Nigeria who came to America to chase the education dream. It was difficult for these immigrants in the US during the period, and he was the hero with this dream. Lena Younger was the hero who had the dream of uniting his family and giving them the best life.
A Raisin in the Sun is a remarkable piece of writing that clearly expresses the situation of the African Americans in the 1950’s USA. After the great migration of the early 20th century, the Blacks filled the major cities, and after the Second World War, things were back to normal, and the economy was growing. Everyone was chasing the American dream, and even the blacks wanted a piece of it. However, things had not changed for African Americans, and they still faced racial discrimination in their opportunities, housing, and jobs. Through the play, Lorraine Hansberry demonstrates that the best way to deal with the racism within the journey of a black person is to confront it.
Gordon, Michelle. “Somewhat like War”: The Aesthetics of Segregation, Black Liberation, and” A Raisin in the Sun.” African American Review 42.1 (2008): 121-133.
Hansberry, Lorraine. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Samuel French, Inc., 1984.
M’Baye, Babacar. “Discrimination and the American Dream in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in The Sun.” Bloom’s Literary Themes: The American Dream. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing (2009): 171-187.